Wednesday, September 25, 2013

In the meadow

The Gibbon meadow of years past.
In the east one would be hard pressed to find big rivers winding through meadows. I suppose the geography doesn't allow it and if it did there would be McMansions lining the banks. Out west, were expansive valleys still lay homeless, rivers still go where they want though they're more likely to suffer assault from agriculture and ranching than bipeds intent on constructing massive dwellings.

The Gibbon in Yellowstone National Park is three rivers divided by falls. The middle section, above Gibbon Falls and below Virginia Cascade meanders, mostly through meadow, though you'll also find steaming geyser basins in the mix. The meadow sections are the most inviting. Long, lazy stretches of water tousled by variable winds

In early September, the meadow grasses along its banks are thick with grasshoppers. You don't really appreciate the bugmass until you wander through the tall grasses and see the ground move ahead of you busy with leaping and scurrying. And you don't really appreciate what this means to you, the angler, until you stand at water edge and a sudden gust wells behind you and bugs fly helplessly in the gale.

I had tied on a hopper pattern at the car more out of awareness that this is the season for them than whether or not I'd actually find a "hatch". Standing at water's edge the wind shifted about and each time the velocity picked up a handful of grasshoppers would be deposited into the current. They'd struggle and swim heading back for shore and with enough frequency to keep it interesting (for me) they'd disappear in a swirl of trout mouth.

I wanted to be at the far shore casting to this bank so I found a spot where the bison cross and made the near bank far. The wind that delivered the hopping mana played tricks with my cast but such is the price to pay to cast large, buggy flies to trout you know are willing.

And they were. For several hours I was able to catch my fill of Brown Trout. Most were in the pan-sized range but there was one that would have been head and tail out of even a generous fryer. The catching seemed to come and go in waves as if aligned with some process that I could not discern. When it was on I did not complain and when it was off I felt like I was doing something wrong. Perhaps I was.

In the coming years the fishing on this stretch will change. Like the section I fished in the morning, this stream will be nuked in the coming years to make way for native trout restoration. For a few years, the fishing will be poor to non-existent as a series of piscicide treatments take out all the non-natives. But then the natives will be stocked into the stream.

If all goes according to plan, within a few years this portion of the river will be full of aggressive, modestly foolish Westslope Cutthroat and Grayling. This fishing will be good like it is today and perhaps a little more special knowing that native trout are back where they belong.

Gibbon Brown. Say goodbye.

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